Waging War Against the Wily, Blueberry-Gobbling Catbird

While toiling for hours the other day to fix netting over my blueberry bushes that had been damaged by last winter's heavy snowfall, I reflected once again on the exhaustive efforts one must expend simply to enjoy a few measly fruits and vegetables.

The repair was necessary because much to my chagrin, the overwhelming flurry of flakes had not fluttered gently through the plastic grid as I hoped but clung to the enclosure like cement and formed a massive, frozen roof that pulled down netting and in some places even snapped 2x4 support beams.

With bushes now beginning to flower and soon to form berries, I need the barrier in place before greedy, freeloading birds have a chance to chow down.

As I struggled on a ladder with saw, hammer, nails, wire snips and other tools, a gray catbird perched on a nearby post, its head cocked.

"Sorry, my little feathered friend. Say farewell to your meal ticket," I said, stretching a fresh length of netting over the wooden frame.

The bird flicked its tail and replied with its signature mewing call.

Working with netting is one of my least favorite jobs – the wretched material is constantly snarling and snagging, but it is effective at repelling most flying critters.

Except the wily catbird.

No sooner had I finished stapling the last section in place and begun carrying equipment back to the tool shed than I spotted the beady-eyed creature flapping happily inside – INSIDE! – my fortress.

"What the …?"

I flung open the gate and raced back inside just in time to see the bird dive and scurry back out through a skinny gap between the bottom of the netting and the ground. It then flew back to the post and mewed.

"So, you think this is a game?" I snarled. "You don't know who you're up against."

Loyal readers will recall the elaborate deer barrier I've constructed in escalating stages over the years, as well as various anti-slug devices. When it comes to gardening, I am a virtual Department of Homeland Security.

Like all my solutions to vexing invaders, the latest catbird deterrent required prodigious labor.

First, I cut 2-foot-wide strips of netting into lengths sufficient to circumnavigate the 100-foot-or-so perimeter of the blueberry bush enclosure.

Next I snipped dozens of 4-inch lengths of baling wire, which I used to attach the new netting strips to the bottom of the existing pen.

Finally, I collected hundreds of pounds of rocks from various locations near the garden and lugged them to the enclosure. I then placed them over the folded edge of the new netting, so that a catbird would have to dig beneath the heavy weight and risk getting crushed if it tried to penetrate.

I check the barrier each day when I visit the garden to water and weed. So far it seems to be holding – but the proof will be when the berries ripen in a month or so, and kamikaze-like birds may not be able to resist such sweet, plump enticements.

If and when that happens I'll have to come up with a more aggressive strategy – but I hope for my sake and the birds' it doesn't come to that. Actually, that's a hollow threat – I don't trap, poison or shoot anything.

As is the case with all the produce I grow – this year, tomatoes, peppers, brussel sprouts, chard, spinach, beans, peas, garlic, onions and shallots – I'd be happy to designate a portion of my blueberries to woodland visitors if they only left the rest for me. But the problem with deer, slugs and birds is you can't negotiate with them. It's all or nothing.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Our Debt of Gratitude to President Obama, the Environmentalist-in-Chief

As we prepare to inaugurate a president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," appointed as Environmental Protection Agency administrator an Oklahoma attorney general who is suing that agency, named the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary...

Call of the Wild: A Clash Over Cellphones in The Great Outdoors

"Yeah, I’m standing on the summit now! … The view is incredible – I can’t believe I’m getting a signal up here!"

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Plunging into Icy Fishers Island Sound at the Annual New Year's Day Run-Swim

Look, I’m not going to lie: While some longtime participants in one of southeastern Connecticut’s most enduring, challenging and madcap traditions insist that plunging into icy water after a run on Jan. 1 is a refreshing and...

No Such Thing as Too Much Fun: A Great 2016; Hopes for an Even Better 2017

When it comes to adventurous fun my philosophy has always been too much is never enough, so when I look back at the highlights of the past 12 months, as I typically do when the calendar is about to flip, I can honestly say that 2016 was a...

Hey, Has Anybody Else Noticed It's Gotten A Little Chilly?

I guess I first realized the temperature had dropped a few degrees when I went out for a 5-mile run this morning and noticed that my eyelids had started to freeze shut, which loyal readers will recognize as Level IV on the Fagin Frigidity Index,...

Granola Munchers Vs. Snickers Gobblers: Conflict Over Plans for a Hotel on New Hampshire's Mount Washington

The first time friends and I trudged up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in winter the frozen peak might as well have been Antarctica – hurricane-force winds and blinding snow battered us, the only climbers that day atop the highest...

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...

Arduous Autumn

In spring we crawl out of our cocoons and celebrate bursting rejuvenation; in summer we play outside from dawn to dusk; during the dark, frigid winter we hunker down like hibernating bears – which leaves fall, when we try to set aside time...

Chain Saw? We Don't Need No Stinking Chain Saw…

So, did you hear that doctors have developed a new method of performing an appendectomy without using anesthesia? It’s exactly like the old operation, except it hurts like a son of a b.

You CAN Go Home Again: A Run Through My Old West Haven Stomping Grounds

Although for decades I’ve been living in a home surrounded by trees that is heated primarily by wood stoves, and I enjoy kayaking, mountain climbing, building stone walls, growing organic vegetables and many other active outdoor pursuits,...

Utah Rocks Part II: Kayaking Down The Colorado River

Propelled by a swift current on the Colorado River earlier this month, my son, Tom, and I gazed at red rock cliffs gleaming against an azure, near cloudless sky. The rustle of aspen and cottonwoods in a gentle breeze mingled with the rush of...